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In the Catholic Church, a Mass can be offered by a priest for some pious intention specified by a person who pays a stipend to the priest.  A Mass card or Mass offering card is a holy card which records the intention. Often, this is the repose of the soul of a dead person; this is a kind of prayer for the dead. The mass may be offered shortly after the death, in which case the mass card, also called a remembrance card, can be sent to the chief mourners as a token of sympathy. Masses may also be said near the anniversary of a person's death in memorial. Some people leave a bequest in their will to be used as a stipend for future masses to be said for them.
Prayers for the dead have been a part of the Mass since the time of the Church Fathers, and are part of the Canons of Hippolytus. The Gregorian mass, instituted by Pope Gregory the Great, is a sequence of a thirty Masses celebrated on thirty days - usually consecutively - for the repose of one deceased soul.
One can visit a parish priest or other priest and arrange with him to have a mass said, give payment and receive a mass card. Alternatively, shops specialising in religious goods, and other shops in heavily Catholic areas, may act as agents, by selling mass cards pre-signed by a priest. The buyer indicates the intentions on a slip forwarded later by the agent to the priest, who celebrates the mass.
The Irish Catholic hierarchy criticised agents for forwarding only a small fraction of the proceeds of mass card sales to the priests with whom they had made arrangements. The government in the Republic of Ireland responded by adding a section to the Charities Act 2009 prohibiting sale of mass cards not authorised by either a bishop or the provincial of an order. A case was taken by an agent that the Act breached his Constitutional right to freedom of religion. The High Court rejected the case, stating his activities were commercial rather than religious, and noting that of €250,000 annual turnover, only €3,600 was forwarded to the Polish priest based in the West Indies who was saying masses.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Mass Offering Cards". Aquinas & more: Catholic store. http://www.aquinasandmore.com/index.cfm/title/About-Mass-Cards/FuseAction/store.displayArticle/article/182/. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
- ↑ "Anger over Mass card 'industry'". BBC News. 6 March 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/7280729.stm. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
- ↑ "§99. Sale of Mass cards.". Charities Act 2009. Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas. 2009. http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2009/a0609.pdf. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
- ↑ "Mass card law challenge lost". RTÉ. 17 December 2009. http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/1217/church.html. Retrieved 22 December 2009.